256 episodes

Fresh ideas from the sharpest minds working toward a cleaner, greener planet

Costing the Earth BBC

    • Science

Fresh ideas from the sharpest minds working toward a cleaner, greener planet

    Autopia to Utopia? Car-Free Cities

    Autopia to Utopia? Car-Free Cities

    Lockdown saw many more people jumping on bikes and walking - as much as a way to get out of the house as get around - but pollution levels dropped and nature could be heard without the background roar of traffic. Jheni Osman asks if this the way it could or should be? Has this given us a new way of thinking about how we get around and can city leaders bank on this to change the infrastructure to be 'car free'?

    After 100 years of city design being built around the private car, this is a rare opportunity to bank on the behaviour change to reduce pollution, improve air quality and get more of us active. Temporary moves to give over more road space to public transport, bikes and pedestrians may give way to more permanent measures and has accelerated plans for 'Car Free Cities'. Jheni explores models that have been applied elsewhere, looks at changes coming in across Milan, Bristol and Birmingham and asks what's needed to make them work? Will we be zooming about on e-scooters and goods transported underground instead? Plans aren't without cost or controversy but is this a rare moment to make a radical change the new normal?

    Presented by Jheni Osman
    Produced by Anne-Marie Bullock for BBC Audio in Bristol.

    • 27 min
    Forests of the Future

    Forests of the Future

    Just a few months ago politicians across the spectrum were promising trees, glorious trees, in abundance. In an unlikely game of Top Trumps the numbers of trees promised reached into billions, ultimately settling at an ambitious promise of 30,000 hectares a year by 2025.

    So, how are we going to reach this target over the next 5 years and is it even the right goal? Things have not begun well with thousands of saplings left to rot after they could not be planted due to coronavirus restrictions and campaigners condemning the government targets as ‘inadequate’. At the same time many experts urge caution as the current push for more trees could result in trees being planted on land which should be used for agriculture or on landscapes which are important carbon stores such as peatland.

    Even if we can find the space we may not have the tree stocks or the skilled workforce to create sustainable woodlands. The current coronavirus crisis has highlighted just how vulnerable the UK nursery industry is without long term planning. We need a trained workforce to plant and care for trees as well as plans for the trees grown to be used sustainably.

    However, there are other ways. Natural regeneration and nurturing existing woodlands could be a better way to capture carbon long term and improve biodiversity. What we plant and how will have a huge affect on how much carbon the tree absorbs depending on how long they will be left standing but landowners will want to see some return on land used for tree planting.

    Peter Gibbs delves into the detail behind the mantra of ‘right tree, right place’ to find out what we should be planting, where we should plant and how to create a forest fit for the future.

    Producer Helen Lennard

    • 27 min
    Flooding Britain

    Flooding Britain

    What's the best way to prevent flooding? Caz Graham finds out whether there might be environmental alternatives to building ever-higher flood defences. She talks to a campaign group in Kendal in Cumbria, where there are multi-million pound plans to build flood barriers through the town centre, and asks the Environment Agency whether there could be more imaginative alternatives. Is Natural Flood Management the answer? Caz talks to academics and experts to find out what new solutions there might be, and what other countries are doing.

    Produced by Emma Campbell.
    Photograph by Stuart Atkinson.


    CORRECTION 22/06/2020
    In the programme we said: "Those with doubts about the Environment Agency’s walls point to alternative strategies like Natural Flood Management – which holds water further upstream, slowing the flow into town, so the flood peak is lower. That’s phase 3 of the Environment Agency’s plan, and gets a tiny fraction of the £76 million budget – just £800,000." In fact the £800,000 for Natural Flood Management is actually in addition to the overall budget.

    • 27 min
    Is this something I should be doing?

    Is this something I should be doing?

    A decade ago, many people saw carbon offsetting as an excuse for carrying on bad behaviour. Need to fly? I can still fly ... look at me - I'm not so bad after all. And the critics lined up to shoot it down. So what has changed, asks Tom Heap, and is it something we should all be doing?
    With contributions from Juliet Davenport of Good Energy, Charlotte Ashton in Zimbabwe, Tim Brown of Tradewater, Mike Childs from Friends of the Earth and Professor Julia Jones who tells us about her experience of conservation projects in Madagascar.

    The producer in Bristol is Miles Warde

    • 27 min
    Silencing with Noise

    Silencing with Noise

    Sound is what the world does. From the tiniest bugs to the largest whales, animals use sound to communicate, for example, they sing to attract a mate and establish a territory. But this is all happening against a background of man-made noise that was, until the last few weeks, increasing in volume all the time. So what happens if you can’t hear or make yourself heard or you are too stressed or distracted to behave normally? Andy Radford, Professor of Behavioural Ecology at the University of Bristol explores the impact of this global pollutant and the mitigation measures that could help.

    Producer: Sarah Blunt

    • 27 min
    Zero Carbon Britain

    Zero Carbon Britain

    In June last year the UK government committed us all to reaching net zero carbon emissions by 2050. To reach that ambitious target we're going to have to change the way we travel, heat our homes and farm our food. Tom Heap is joined by an expert panel to measure our progress and gauge our chances of reaching net zero.

    Tom's joined by physicist Helen Czerski of University College London, James Murray, editor of Business Green and the author of Our Final Warning, Mark Lynas.

    Producer: Alasdair Cross

    • 27 min

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